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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

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PROFESSIONAL mathematicians who could properly be called
business men are extremely rare. The one who most closely
approximates to this ideal is Kronecker (1823-91), who did so
well for himself by the time he was thirty that thereafter he was
enabled to devote his superb talents to mathematics in consi-
derably greater comfort than most mathematicians can afford.
The obverse of Kronecker's career is to be found - according
to a tradition familiar to American mathematicians - in the
exploits of John Pierpont Morgan, founder of the banking
house of Morgan and Company. If there is anything in this tra-
dition, Morgan as a student in Germany showed such extra-
ordinary mathematical ability that his professors tried to
induce him to follow mathematics as his life work and even
offered him a university position in Germany which would have
sent him off to a flying start. Morgan declined and dedicated his
gifts to finance, with results familiar to all. Speculators (in
academic studies, not Wall Street) may amuse themselves by
reconstructing world history on the hypothesis that Morgan
had stuck to mathematics.
What might have happened to Germany had Kronecker not
abandoned finance for mathematics also offers a wide field for
speculation. His business abilities were of a high order; he was
an ardent patriot with an uncanny insight into European diplo-
macy and a shrewd cynicism - his admirers called it realism -
regarding the unexpressed sentiments cherished by the great
Powers for one another.
At first a liberal like so many intellectual young Jews,
Kronecker quickly became a rock-ribbed conservative when he
saw which side his own abundant bread was buttered on - after